control-templates-2

So I played around with Xamarin Forms Control Templates!

Yes I did and I came up with something pretty cool. Do you want to change your app’s theme on demand at run time? or load a different template for your pages at run time? or even simply change the app’s colors on demand?

Oh yeah Xamarin Forms Control Template gives the answer to all of that! 😉 Here what I built with it! 😀

xf-control-templates-ios xf-control-templates-android

Pretty cool eh! 😀

So basically what I built was a simple app where you could dynamically change the App background  color theme and change the change the App theme style on demand.

As you can see you can change the color theme of the app by clicking on the color buttons and change the theme style by clicking on the theme change button, which loads a different theme for the App if you closely notice.

The honest inspiration for this is that I remember back in the days when I was installing Windows 8 in my laptop, at the first time boot up, they ask you to choose the color theme you would like to use.

installation-7

Where it presents you with a beautiful color pallet and when you click on any of those colors the whole page changes the color accordingly, so I wanted to build something like that for the fun someday. 😉

So here we go… 😀

What are Xamarin Forms Control Templates?

Xamarin.Forms control templates provide the ability to easily theme and re-theme application pages at runtime. – Xamarin Docs 

Nuff said, if you want to learn more about it, read the documents. Here I’m going to explain how you could achieve the above cool stuff using Control Templates for Xamarin Forms.

Xamarin Forms Control Templates Binding?

I have used the Binding in order to change the template color at runtime. 🙂 If you’re not familiar with this concept, you may read up here: Xamarin Docs

We are keeping a public Property for the Theme color in our ContentPage, and binding our Control Template’s color values to that property. So at the run time whenever we change the Color property, it will get reflected to whatever the Template and the background color will change accordingly. 😉

Otherwise we would have to create different Control Templates for every single color, which will be very heavy and long code, but thanks to Binding we could do it with ease as described above.

Let me walk you through…

1. Creating templates…

First of all let’s create our templates, we are going to create two templates with different styles, as show in the below screenshots of the finished implementation.

simulator-screen-shot-1-jan-2017-2-53-32-pm  simulator-screen-shot-1-jan-2017-2-53-45-pm

  1. Template Header and footer will have a background and simple Label for both header and footer.
  2. Template Header will have one label with with a white background color, and footer will have two labels with white background color.

For now just forget about the color and we will focus on the initial Template Design.

Alright now let’s get to work.

Let’s begin by creating the project, and make sure to create XAML based Xamarin Forms project. Then let’s create our Control Templates in the App.xaml file, within the Application.Resources tag by adding them to the global ResourceDictionary, so that they could be accessed in anywhere of the app at runtime.

You can create any number of templates as you wish and name them in anyways you prefer. 😉 More themes the merrier…

<Application.Resources>
<ResourceDictionary>

  <!--template theme 1-->
  <ControlTemplate x:Key="MyTemplate1">
    ...
  </ControlTemplate>

  <!--template theme 2-->
  <ControlTemplate x:Key="MyTemplate2">
    ...
  </ControlTemplate>

</ResourceDictionary>
</Application.Resources>

 

le template 1…

Alright let’s create our first Control Template.

<!--template theme 1-->
<ControlTemplate x:Key="MyTemplate1">
<Grid>
  <Grid.RowDefinitions>
    <RowDefinition Height="0.1*" />
    <RowDefinition Height="0.8*" />
    <RowDefinition Height="0.1*" />
  </Grid.RowDefinitions>
  <Grid.ColumnDefinitions>
    <ColumnDefinition Width="0.05*" />
    <ColumnDefinition Width="0.95*" />
  </Grid.ColumnDefinitions>

  <!--template header-->
  <!--use of template binding for color-->
  <BoxView Grid.ColumnSpan="2" Color="{TemplateBinding Parent.ThemeColor}" />
  <Label Grid.Row="0" Grid.Column="1"
         Text="this is my theme style 1"
         TextColor="White"
         VerticalOptions="Center" />
  <!--template header-->

  <!--your page content goes in here-->
  <ContentPresenter Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="0" Grid.ColumnSpan="2" />

  <!--template footer-->
  <!--use of template binding for color-->
  <BoxView Grid.Row="2" Grid.Column="0" Grid.ColumnSpan="2" Color="{TemplateBinding Parent.ThemeColor}" />
  <Label Grid.Row="2" Grid.Column="1"
         Text="template 1 (c) Udara Alwis 2016"
         TextColor="White"
         VerticalOptions="Center" />
  <!--template footer-->
</Grid>
</ControlTemplate>

 

There you have it, as you can see we have created a template with a Grid where we are aligning the page content in the middle  as the ContentPrensenter and the Header and Footer accordingly at top and bottom. We have added simple Labels to each Header and Footer with some text in it.

You can also notice that we are using Template property Binding to set the Background color of our Template. Color=”{TemplateBinding Parent.ThemeColor}”

So at the run time the Color will change according to the “ThemeColor” property which we will be implementing in the ContentPage.

You can use Binding to Change any property in your Control Templates thanks to awesomeness of Xamarin Forms! 😀

le template 2…

Now here’s our second Control Template.

<!--template theme 2-->
<ControlTemplate x:Key="MyTemplate2">
<Grid>
  <Grid.RowDefinitions>
	<RowDefinition Height="0.1*" />
	<RowDefinition Height="0.8*" />
	<RowDefinition Height="0.1*" />
  </Grid.RowDefinitions>
  <Grid.ColumnDefinitions>
	<ColumnDefinition Width="0.05*" />
	<ColumnDefinition Width="0.35*" />
	<ColumnDefinition Width="0.55*" />
	<ColumnDefinition Width="0.05*" />
  </Grid.ColumnDefinitions>

  <!--template header-->
  <!--use of template binding for color-->
  <BoxView Grid.ColumnSpan="4" Color="{TemplateBinding Parent.ThemeColor}" />
  <Label Grid.Row="0" Grid.Column="1"  Grid.ColumnSpan="2"
		 Text="this is my theme style 2"
		 TextColor="Black"
		 BackgroundColor="White"
		 VerticalOptions="Center" />
  <!--template header-->

  <!--your page content goes in here-->
  <ContentPresenter Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="0" Grid.ColumnSpan="4" />

  <!--template footer-->
  <!--use of template binding for color-->
  <BoxView Grid.Row="2" Grid.Column="0" Grid.ColumnSpan="4" Color="{TemplateBinding Parent.ThemeColor}" />
  <Label Grid.Row="2" Grid.Column="1"
		 Text="template 2"
		 TextColor="Black"
		 BackgroundColor="White"
		 VerticalOptions="Center" />
  <Label Grid.Row="2" Grid.Column="2"
		 Text="(c) Udara Alwis 2016"
		 TextColor="Black"
		 BackgroundColor="White"
		 VerticalOptions="Center"/>
  <!--template footer-->
</Grid>
</ControlTemplate>

 

As you can see the difference of this Template is that we have added extra columns to the Grid container and added extra labels to fill in. Also you may have noticed that we are setting the Label background to White color in this template.

Alright there goes our two templates in this example. Next let’s implement the design for our ContentPage.

2. ContentPage design stuff…

So those two Template themes are now ready to be applied for any ContentPage in our App.

Next let’s lay down the design for our content page. Remember hence we are using Control Templates, we need to implement our UI in a way our page could use those templates, which is by,

having a ContentView which will position itself in the ContentPresenter in the Templates once we bind to them.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
<ContentPage xmlns="http://xamarin.com/schemas/2014/forms"
             xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2009/xaml"
             xmlns:local="clr-namespace:XFControlTemplateThemes"
             x:Class="WhateverYourNamespace.MainPage">

  <ContentView x:Name="contentView"
               ControlTemplate="{StaticResource MyTemplate1}">
    <ContentView.Padding>
      <OnPlatform x:TypeArguments="Thickness" iOS="0,20,0,0" />
    </ContentView.Padding>

   <!-- Your Page Content-->

  </ContentView>
</ContentPage>

 

You may have noticed that I have bound our ContentView ControlTemplate  property to one of the Templates we created in the App.xaml yeah? Yep exactly that’s because since we placed those templates in the App’s global level, we can directly access those properties from anywhere in our app. So as of the defualt ControlTemplate I have set it to the “MyTemplate1” template we created. So when the page loads it will be decorated with that. 😉

Now let’s take a look at the Page content design which will be placed inside the ContentView above. 🙂

Now keep in mind you can implement whatever the design you want to your Page body, but for this example basically we need to have a button to switch in between the two themes we created above and another bunch of buttons to change the color of those themes (something like a color pallet). So here we go…

<StackLayout VerticalOptions="CenterAndExpand" Padding="10,0,10,0">

  <Label Text="Welcome to the Dynamic Theme Changer app!"
		 HorizontalTextAlignment="Center"
		 FontSize="20"
		 VerticalOptions="Start"
		 HorizontalOptions="Center" />

  <Grid Padding="0,20,0,20">
	<Label Text="click below to change the theme on the go"
		   HorizontalTextAlignment="Center"
		   HorizontalOptions="Center" />
	<Button Text="change current theme template" Grid.Row="1"
				Clicked="OnButtonClicked" />

	<Grid.RowDefinitions>
	  <RowDefinition Height="*" ></RowDefinition>
	  <RowDefinition Height="40" ></RowDefinition>
	</Grid.RowDefinitions>
  </Grid>

  <Grid Padding="0,20,0,20">

	<Label Text="click below to change the theme color on the go"
		   HorizontalTextAlignment="Center"
		   HorizontalOptions="Center"
		   Grid.Row="0" Grid.Column="0" Grid.ColumnSpan="10"/>

	<Button BackgroundColor="#ff0000" Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="0" Clicked="OnColorChangeButtonClicked" />
	<Button BackgroundColor="#ff8000" Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="1" Clicked="OnColorChangeButtonClicked" />
	<Button BackgroundColor="#ffff00" Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="2" Clicked="OnColorChangeButtonClicked" />
	<Button BackgroundColor="#00ff40" Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="3" Clicked="OnColorChangeButtonClicked" />
	<Button BackgroundColor="#00ffff" Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="4" Clicked="OnColorChangeButtonClicked" />
	<Button BackgroundColor="#0080ff" Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="5" Clicked="OnColorChangeButtonClicked" />
	<Button BackgroundColor="#4000ff" Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="6" Clicked="OnColorChangeButtonClicked" />
	<Button BackgroundColor="#bf00ff" Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="7" Clicked="OnColorChangeButtonClicked" />
	<Button BackgroundColor="#ff0080" Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="8" Clicked="OnColorChangeButtonClicked" />
	<Button BackgroundColor="#ff0040" Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="9" Clicked="OnColorChangeButtonClicked" />

	<Grid.RowDefinitions>
	  <RowDefinition Height="*" />
	  <RowDefinition Height="40" />
	</Grid.RowDefinitions>
	<Grid.ColumnDefinitions>
	  <ColumnDefinition Width="0.1*" />
	  <ColumnDefinition Width="0.1*" />
	  <ColumnDefinition Width="0.1*" />
	  <ColumnDefinition Width="0.1*" />
	  <ColumnDefinition Width="0.1*" />
	  <ColumnDefinition Width="0.1*" />
	  <ColumnDefinition Width="0.1*" />
	  <ColumnDefinition Width="0.1*" />
	  <ColumnDefinition Width="0.1*" />
	  <ColumnDefinition Width="0.1*" />
	</Grid.ColumnDefinitions>
  </Grid>

</StackLayout>

 

Behold my beautiful UI. 😉 As you can see the first button will be switching in between the themes we created before, and them there’s a whole another set of buttons (color pallet buttons) with different background colors, which points to the same click event. Those buttons will be changing the template color by changing the ThemeColor property I mentioned earlier, which we are going to implement next. 🙂

3. ContentPage code-behind…

Now this is where we put things together, in your MainPage.cs code behind. Which we are handling all the theme changes and color changes on the go. 😉

So here are what we are going to implement here…

  1. ThemeColor public property to be used by the Templates for Color changing feature
  2. Load the control templates to be used in this page for run time theme changing
  3. Handle the run time theme switching functionality (switch the themes in between the templates we created before)
  4. Handle the tun time them color switching functionality (switch the themes between different color as show in those color buttons)
public partial class MainPage : ContentPage
{
	public static readonly BindableProperty ThemeColorProperty =
		BindableProperty.Create("ThemeColor", typeof(Color), typeof(MainPage), Color.Red);
	/// <summary>
	/// Gets or Sets the theme color for the template
	/// </summary>
	public Color ThemeColor
	{
		set { SetValue(ThemeColorProperty, value); }
		get { return (Color)GetValue(ThemeColorProperty); }
	}

	private bool _originalTemplate = true;
	private ControlTemplate _myTemplate1;
	private ControlTemplate _myTemplate2;

	public MainPage()
	{
		InitializeComponent();

		_myTemplate1 = (ControlTemplate)Application.Current.Resources["MyTemplate1"];
		_myTemplate2 = (ControlTemplate)Application.Current.Resources["MyTemplate2"];
	}

	void OnButtonClicked(object sender, EventArgs e)
	{
		// switching to the next theme
		_originalTemplate = !_originalTemplate;
		contentView.ControlTemplate = (_originalTemplate) ? _myTemplate1 : _myTemplate2;
	}

	private void OnColorChangeButtonClicked(object sender, EventArgs e)
	{
		if (((Button)sender) != null)
		{
			var sender1 = ((Button)sender);

			// Change the theme color according 
			// to the selected button color
			ThemeColor = sender1.BackgroundColor;

			// this will update the ThemeColor property
			// and reflect to the Control template
		}
	}
}

 

You can see I have implemented the ThemeColor property where our Templates will be binding their Color properties to. Then take a look at the event OnColorChangeButtonClicked which is the event that is fired by the set of buttons with different colors as we implemented in the UI. So inside this event we are retrieving the button’s background color and setting that value to our ThemeColor property, which will in return reflect to the Template that has been loaded to the page at that moment.

And then in the Constructor we are loading the two templates we created before into our page by accessing the Application Resources dictionary so we can use those instances to change the them on the go.

Inside the OnButtonClicked event we are switching between the two template themes we have loaded above.

Finally hit F5!

Alright that’s it for the coding. Now save it and hit F5 to see the magical beauty of Xamarin Forms! 😉

xf-control-templates-ios  xf-control-templates-android

So you can see clearly that when you click on the “change current theme template” button, the theme immediately changes to the next template.

And then you click on any of the color pallet buttons you can see the theme background color changes accordingly. Beautiful isn’t it? 😉

There you have it fellas!

Now as for them lazy people, you could straight away grab the code up in my github: Xamarin-Playground/XFControlTemplateThemes

Enjoy and share! 😀

– Udara Alwis

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